Everyone collects items for different reasons- it may have a sentimental value, you might think you’ll use it again, or it is high quality and you feel bad throwing it out. But once you have kept an item for days, weeks, months, years, (even decades- I’m not here to judge) without using it, it becomes unnecessary clutter and starts to weigh on you.
Being surrounded by excess things that lack a practical use has a negative effect on your focus and ability to process information. When neuroscientists at Princeton examined people’s focus in a cluttered environment, and again in an organized environment, they found that clutter consumes your attention, which results in decreased focus and an overall increase of workplace stress.
In the digital age, it’s very important to realize that clutter is no longer just physical. Anything that makes your phone vibrate or “ting” competes for your attention. Notifications from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat as well as texts and emails are an added, cluttered stressor in your day.
Why is clutter competing for your attention so bad? When you hear a “ting” or come across a pile of un-sorted clothing, papers, or household items, you are instantly distracted from your own thinking process. Your brain is forced to split its thinking power between your original task and the new distraction. The lifetime consequences of clutter? You become worse at switching between tasks, begin to struggle with your memory, and find it challenging to filter information.
Although everyone has their own tolerance level for clutter, here are 3 ways you can organize on your own:
1) Set rules for yourself: Set constraints on your social media and email notifications, as well as on the time you spend using your electronic devices while home each day. For physical clutter, a good rule of thumb is to not buy a new ______ until you have finished using your old _______.
2) Take a review of your belongings each month: For some this may be hard, so start small. Focus on one small, cluttered area (like your desk or the linen closet) each week. If there are things there you have not used in over a year, and you don’t see yourself using in the next year, donate them or lend them to a friend.
3) Constrain your storage spaces: If you don’t know what you really need, here is a sure way to find out! Try to cut down your storage spaces. When traveling, constrain yourself to a carry-on size suitcase. You’ll be forced to ask yourself, “Do I really need to take 12 pairs of underwear for a 3 day trip?” and other hard questions. Similarly, at home, if you have a cluttered closet try to get rid of two hangers (and therefore the items on those hangers) every week until you have a manageable space.
In Good Health,